JACKSON, Tenn. (WREG) – Body leakage was discovered at a Tennessee mausoleum after a cemetery operator allowed it to fall into extreme disrepair, according to state regulators.
“If they don’t have enough people to take care of the bodies they’re trying to handle, I don’t want to give them one more,” said customer Gail Mann.
The issues come after a string of similar problems exposed by WFXR’s sister station, WREG, at StoneMor’s Memphis facilities.
Mann was reacting to a rat infestation at one of the locations. The state fined StoneMor $14,000 after it said two bodies at the facility had been partially eaten.
WREG previously reported on a decaying mausoleum at one location and other persistent management issues.
“You call, half the time you don’t even get a reception. No return calls,” Eddie Hayslett, a customer of the Whitten Road location, said at the time.
Now, Tennessee lawmakers are getting involved.
“This has really become a huge problem,” said state Sen. Ed Jackson (R-Madison).
Jackson first learned about the problem from his neighbor, whose wife is entombed in the mausoleum at Highland Memorial Gardens in Jackson.
“He said it had a really bad odor. Needed a lot done to it. It was hot in there. The air conditioning units weren’t working,” Jackson said.
Jackson contacted the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, whose inspectors then visited the facility.
“Tragically, there was some leaking of body fluids,” department spokesperson Kevin Walters said, citing the lack of air conditioning as the cause.
The department suspended the cemetery from doing any new business.
“They can’t sell any properties or inter anyone in the mausoleum,” Jackson said.
Jackson said he’s working with state Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Shelby County, to hold StoneMor accountable.
“It’s a shame it had to come to this point,” Jackson said. “Eventually, it will work, I promise you. Whatever we have to do we’ll make it work.”
A company spokesperson said they are fixing the leakage issues and have privately been in contact with the impacted families.
Regulators are urging the public to file a complaint if they have issues.
“We can’t step in and take action until the public lets us know,” Walters said.
The state also has the option to revoke StoneMor’s license to operate in locations statewide.
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